The Incredibles appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. To date, the worst picture grade I’ve given to a Pixar DVD was the “A” earned by Toy Story. The other four received “A+” marks, and the same followed for the flawless transfer of Incredibles.
At no point did sharpness appear anything other than stellar. Even in the widest shots, the image remained tight and rock-solid. I never noticed a hint of softness in this tight, detailed presentation. In addition, no concerns with jagged edges or shimmering popped up, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. As with all the other Pixar flicks, this transfer came straight from the digital source, so it lacked any form of distracting defects.
With its stylized Sixties look, Incredibles presented a broad palette, and the DVD replicated those hues wonderfully. It veered from bright, warm tones to quieter, more subdued colors with ease and made all of them look vivid and distinctive. Blacks were deep and dense, and the shadows - of which we got more than usual for an animated movie - seemed smooth and accurately rendered. I’ve come to anticipate excellent visuals from Pixar DVDs, and this one lived up to expectations.
Although the audio of the other Pixar DVDs wasn’t quite as impressive, the studio nonetheless always presents strong soundtracks. The lowest audio grades I’ve ever issued to a Pixar DVD were the “A-“ marks I rated Toy Story and Nemo. Incredibles offered yet another solid mix that enhanced the material.
Actually, Incredibles may well be the best of the Pixar soundtracks since it boasted the liveliest material. With all the superhero action, the movie had many chances to make great use of the five channels, and it lived up to those expectations. At all times, the movie created a good sense of environment and utilized the different speakers to its advantage. Elements were well-placed and blended smoothly, and that included liberal use of localized speech; voices came from logical spots in the spectrum. Music also presented nice stereo imaging.
Of course, the action sequences were the most memorable. From start to finish, those helped place us in the world of the heroes, as the battles and destruction came from all around us. For possibly the most fun pieces, look at those in which Dash runs around the room. Others also came across as winning and involving too, and they helped make the mix very involving.
Audio quality kept up with the high standards of the rest of the package. Speech always sounded natural and warm, with no edginess or intelligibility issues. The brassy score was bright and vivid, as the track punched the music well. Effects finished things with accurate, dynamic audio that represented the elements in a lively manner. Bass response remained consistently deep and firm, as the low-end added solid punch to the track. The audio wasn’t quite good enough to match with the picture’s “A+”, but it definitely merited a straight “A”.
Yet another packed 2-DVD special edition, the fun starts on Disc One with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Brad Bird and producer John Walker, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Recorded almost exactly two months before the movie opened, Bird and Walker didn’t know how it’d be received, but that didn’t stop them from providing a peppy and optimistic look at their film.
Bird dominates as the pair discuss a mix of production issues. We get notes about story and character concerns, cut and altered scenes, influences and inspirations, technical challenges and general comments about the movie’s creation. On the negative side, some of the time the pair just praise the folks who worked on the movie. However, we still find much insight into the various processes, and Bird comes across as passionate about his work. Amusingly, he threatens to punch the next person who refers to animation as a “genre” and he clearly really gets into his job. The surfeit of praise keeps this from becoming a great commentary, but it presents more than enough information to satisfy.
For the second commentary, we hear from supervising animators Tony Fucile, Steven Hunter and Alan Barillaro plus animators Gini Cruz Santos, Dave Devan, Kureha Yokoo, Dave Mullins, John Kahrs, Robert Russ, Angus MacLane, Travis Hathaway, Doug Frankel, and Peter Sohn. All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific track. With such a huge roster of participants, it becomes tough to keep score. I can’t be sure, but it sounds like the three supervising animators sit together for their parts while the other animators are with each other for theirs.
Whatever the alignment may be, the commentary edits together neatly and works well. As one might expect, it focuses mainly on technical animation concerns. A particular focus looks at all the animators who came from the world of cel work and the challenges they faced as they moved to CG and its three dimensions. We also find nice notes about character design and the work of the voice actors, visual problems and inspirations, story issues, working with Bird, the movie’s look, and general technical topics. Some of the more intriguing remarks go into actors considered to play Mr. Incredible; names like George Clooney and Harrison Ford appear. I also like the information about how the Rankin-Bass “animagic” shows influenced their work, and a lot of affectionate mockery of Bird’s intense style gives the track humor and life. The commentary moves briskly and gives us a solid examination of the animation processes.
Director Bird gives us an introduction to the film. In this 60-second clip, he offers an overview of the DVD set and also recommends we use the THX Optimizer. It’s not a terribly interesting piece, but it helps lead us into the product.
As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Cinderella, Chicken Little, and Cars. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for Lilo & Stitch: Stitch Has a Glitch, The Cat Returns, Porco Rosso, Nausicaa, an Incredibles videogame and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror theme park attraction.
Lastly, DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
At the open of DVD Two, we get another introduction. In this 50-second snippet, Bird again sets up what we’ll find on the disc.
Fans will be happy to encounter the new animated short Jack-Jack Attack. Presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the four-minute and 43-second cartoon follows what happened to Kari the babysitter while the family was off battling Syndrome. It’s a highly entertaining piece.
A second short appears here as well. Boundin’ accompanied theatrical screenings of Incredibles. Also anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, the four-minute and 41-second cartoon depicts a lamb with a glorious coat who loses his sense of self when a farmer shears his wool. It’s a cutesy short that doesn’t do much for me, perhaps because the western motif presents some annoying music.
We can watch the short with or without commentary from writer/director/narrator Bud Luckey. He discusses visual influences, his own background, story and character inspirations, music and technical elements. It’s fun to hear all the cannibalized parts of the cartoon, as Luckey mentions that he used a vehicle from Cars and a character from Nemo. Luckey presents a quick but informative chat.
A little more information about the animator appears in Who Is Bud Luckey? The three-minute and 56-second featurette presents comments from Luckey, Bird, executive producer John Lasseter, Monsters Inc. director Pete Docter, and Pixar president Ed Catmull. They let us know about Luckey’s career and his work on “Boundin’”. A little of the information related to the short repeats from Luckey’s commentary, but we get nice insight into the animator and his other work.
Six deleted scenes pop up next. Including introductions, these fill a total of 34 minutes and 34 seconds. The longest and most significant of these is the “Alternate Opening”. It would have started the movie with a different tone and it would have altered the ending as well; some of the material from the actual conclusion shows up in the “Alternate Opening”. We also see a deleted character - Snug, Helen’s old pilot - and a few smaller bits that didn’t make the cut. None of them come in animated form; they’re all storyreels that consist of storyboards and audio. Despite that, they’re a lot of fun to see.
The inclusion of introductions and other discussion from Bird and story supervisor Mark Andrews helps make this area more interesting. Bird does the majority of the talking as he gives us notes on where the scenes would have gone in the movie, what he liked and disliked about them, and why they were cut. The material gives us lots of fine facts.
A number of pieces appear within the “Behind the Scenes” domain. First comes a 27-minute and 23-second documentary called The Making of The Incredibles. It consists of movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from Bird, Lasseter, Walker, Kahrs, Sohn, Barillaro, Hunter, MacLane, Fucile, Andrews, editor Stephen Schaffer, co-director of photography Andrew Jimenez, character designer Teddy Newton, production designer Lou Romano, animators Bret Parker and Jim Murphy, character technical artist Mark Therrell, art director Ralph Eggleston, production manager Katherine Sarafian, composer Michael Giacchino, sets sequence supervisor Nigel Hardwidge, character supervisor Bill Wise, and supervising technical director Rick Sayre.
A wide variety of subjects are covered here. The program goes into Bird’s strong personality and how he came to Pixar from the 2-D world, origins of the film and its development, character decisions, moving from 2-D to 3-D, the score, approaches to the animation, the three supervising animators, videotapes of the animators as they work out acting, technical specifics, challenges connected to the rendering of humans, the emphasis on stories and depth at Pixar, elements of Bird in various characters, battles between Bird and producer Walker and various changes.
What you won’t find in “Making”: a clear, concise part “A” to part “B” synopsis of the production. While it starts with Day One - literally - of Bird’s tenure at Pixar plus the origins of the project, it soon hops around the various aspects of the movie’s creation. What you will find: a lot of good insight into the film and its participants. Some of the usual happy talk pops up, but we also get more than a few frank moments. More than a few arguments pop up due to Bird’s passionate personality, and we see them in all their glory.
Behind the scenes footage acts as the star of this piece. Some of the information offered already appears in the commentaries, but the inclusion of the video shots from the workrooms adds a lot of spark here. Plenty of new material appears as well, and we get solid details about a number of issues. I admit I’d have preferred a more logically delineated documentary, but this one nonetheless fills out the subjects well.
Additional information crops up via the outtakes piece entitled More Making of The Incredibles. It provides 40 minutes and 52 seconds of segments that didn’t make the standard documentary. Here we find notes from Bird, Andrews, Walker, Schaffer, Jimenez, Romano, Eggleston, Newton, Fucile, Sayre, Wise, Therrell, Giacchino, Hunter, Mullins, shading art director Bryn Imagire, cloth development lead Christine Waggoner, hair and cloth simulation supervisor Mark Thomas Henne, software team lead Andy Witkin, technical artist Bill Sheffler, musician Rick Baptist and Clayton Haslop, conductor/orchestrator Tim Simonec, recording engineer Dan Wallin, director of photography Janet Lucroy, software team leads Karon Weber and Tom Hahn, and sound designer Randy Thom.
A more intentionally fragmented program, this one goes through a number of topics. It gets into story development and fitting unique sequences together, story pitches and animatics, character design, specifics about “E”, making humans both realistic and stylized, problems with clothing, hair and muscles, creating digital extras with “Universal Man”, the film’s many sets and environment, sound design and music, lighting, and software tools.
Oddly, though this collection of clips doesn’t try to blend them together, it flows better than the main “Making” show. The latter’s shifts feel more awkward because they come without natural pauses, whereas “More” clearly stops and starts its snippets.
Both provide similarly useful information. “More” digs into quite a few tasty topics and really helps flesh out our understanding of the flick. It repeats little from the commentaries as it goes over many neat subjects and gives us a lot of insight.
A form of “blooper reel” appears with Incredi-Blunders. The 103-second clip shows the usual assortment of freaky rendering errors. In an amusing touch, though, it comes with its own laugh track! That cheesy choice actually makes the goofs funnier.
An unusual piece, Vowellet - An Essay By Sarah Vowell consists of a kind of video diary created by the voice actor. In this nine-minute and 24-second piece, she chats about her real life as a historical writer and other facets of her personality. She also discusses her work on the film, and we see some outtakes from Incredibles plus a test reel for Violet. It’s a funny and intriguing look at the person behind the voice made more interesting since acting isn’t her focus.
Within the Art Gallery, we go into six different areas. The domain includes “Story” (11 frames), “Character Design” (26), “Set Design” (10), “Color Scripts” (14), “Lighting” (26) and “Collages” (19). Compared to other Disney DVDs, this section doesn’t include as many stills as usual, but they’re all quite good. They offer a solid examination of the visual elements used to create the flick.
Inside “Publicity” we get three trailers. We find a “teaser” along with two full theatrical ads. The teaser is the best since it shows footage not meant for the movie.
”Publicity” also gives us six minutes and 31 seconds of Character Interviews. This puts Mr. Incredible in a situation with KABC TV’s George Pennacchio, Elastigirl with Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell, Extra’s Jerry Penacoli with Frozone, and E!’s Patrick Stinson with Edna. The original actors supply the voices, but they don’t make this anything more than a cute trifle.
After this we go to an area called “Top Secret”. Its first element is a fabricated kiddie cartoon show named Mr. Incredible and Pals. We see a four-minute and two-second clip in which Mr. Incredible and Frozone work with Mr. Skipperdoo, a bespectacled rabbit. It’s appropriately crappy and also very entertaining, partially due to its short length; it’d get old if it lasted much longer.
We can watch “Pals” with or without commentary from Mr. Incredible and Frozone. Voiced by Nelson and Jackson, they bicker about the quality of the program; Frozone hates it while Incredible defends the program. It’s quite good and might be funnier than the show itself.
Also in “Top Secret”, we get NSA Files. This presents information about 21 superheroes and also gives notes about three superhero groups. Not only does the section show text details about the heroes’ powers and personalities, but also sound bites appear in which the heroes chat about themselves. This becomes a cool and creative extra that’s a lot of fun, especially the audio clips; those are tremendous fun, and they demonstrate that the folks behind this area put a lot of effort into it.
Helpful element: absolutely every extra includes subtitles in English, Spanish and French. That includes the trailers and even the commentaries! Very few DVDs do this and it’s a very welcome touch.
If you thought The Incredibles might end Pixar’s amazing string of success, you thought wrong. Six films, six huge hits - they’re the most reliable studio we’re likely to ever find. Actually, I admit I wasn’t wild about their two efforts prior to Incredibles, but this terrific flick firmly brings me back into the fold. It combines parody with homage to create a warm, witty, exciting and very endearing action flick.
Unsurprisingly, the DVD lives up to the studio’s extremely high standards as well. Once again we get virtually flawless picture quality, and the movie also boasts excellent audio. Extras round out the experience well, as they give us a rich and informative examination of the flick’s creation. A great DVD for a wonderful movie, The Incredibles earns my highest endorsement. Snag this one as soon as you can.